Famous for its lack of food taboos, Tomohon market is a place of harsh contrasts. There are rats scurrying through the stalls, and rats roasting on sticks. There is the deep stench of blood drying in the sun, and the tropical aroma of flowers. There are vegetables, spices, meats, and fish typical of most Indonesian markets, and some that are only found here. There are visitors in the market doing their typical daily routine shopping, and visitors looking on wide-eyed as if they have just stepped onto a different planet. There are merchants killing and roasting dogs in the middle of the meat market, and there are merchants shaking their heads and patting their hands on their hearts in disapproval of the dog meat being sold.
People here are overall very generous and friendly. This is not an ominous place or nor one of suspicion. Locals and foreigners are welcomed alike, and we are welcomed with our cameras to every corner of the market. It is a bustling and colorful market, overflowing with local flavor. It’s a market filled with local children playing, and people laughing. Yet this market can be a very emotionally challenging place to visit.
Each and every part of the world has it ‘s own unique food taboos. There are things we eat in America that are shocking and appalling to people in other parts of the world. Many of our modern industrial farming practices in the west call into question much about the humane treatment of animals.
In our travels we have made a point to eat whatever we are offered, to try any and everything, to be open minded and to embrace whatever new experience we wake to each day. That is after all the beauty of travel, to open one’s eyes and deepen understanding. It is all too easy to hid in one’s comfort zone and build a fortress around it. It is far more challenging and rewarding to step away from the known and explore life as if a child free of the tangles of judgment and expectations. Food is one of the great commonalities everywhere in the world and to share in eating can at times be a much stronger bridge than language.
With a deep respect for cultural differences, an understanding of the significant challenges faced by wildlife all over the planet, and a sympathy for all living things, we ventured into Tomohun market with open hearts and minds.
Dogs are brought into the market alive, killed and cooked throughout the day in the same area as they are kept. This is something that gives one pause for reflection regardless of your feelings about dog meat as a whole. The ability to show compassion for an animal prior to killing it for food is something that transcends all cultural differences around the globe…as does the ability to show indifference.